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boatpaddle
10-17-2013, 12:36 PM
The first ukulele I built had a Spanish heel joint. The next step may have been a dovetail joint, but I haven't gotten around to that yet. Instead, the next one was a pocket joint, what I now call a reverse heel joint. The pictures are ones that I put together for my web site, but thought it would be nice to share with other luthiers because they represent unusual ways to make the joint. One thing I like about them is they all use the structure inside the body to make them more rigid than traditional joints.59956599575995859959

jcalkin
10-19-2013, 06:42 AM
Pretty interesting work. Cool looking ukes, too.

Michael N.
10-19-2013, 11:18 PM
They are very rigid and very nicely executed. I can't help thinking though that they are, for a Uke or Nylon strung Guitar, WAY overkill.

Timbuck
10-20-2013, 03:23 AM
What size are they ?

jcalkin
10-20-2013, 03:32 AM
They are very rigid and very nicely executed. I can't help thinking though that they are, for a Uke or Nylon strung Guitar, WAY overkill.

Which brings up a very interesting question: so what? Does over-building the rims and neck support necessarily effect the performance of a lightly made top? Some respectable guitar makers think not, and that it might actually enhance performance. But to me much of the appeal of ukes is that they are uncomplicated things and always have been. If I have to put in extra effort, I'd rather build banjos or guitars, which I find more satisfying to play and perhaps easier to sell for reasonable money. Or I'd rather work on the cosmetic niceties that are appealing to me more and more thanks to a few members of UU. I don't want to over-intellectualize lutherie anymore. Still, its fun to watch someone else hunt the unicorn.

ernie kleinman
10-20-2013, 06:32 AM
+1 john, totally agree. I just use a bolt on neck, and even that can get fiddly.Switching now to just plain glueing the neck/body to see how they hold up.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
10-20-2013, 07:54 AM
I don't find or approach uke building as being easier then guitar building


Which brings up a very interesting question: so what? Does over-building the rims and neck support necessarily effect the performance of a lightly made top? Some respectable guitar makers think not, and that it might actually enhance performance. But to me much of the appeal of ukes is that they are uncomplicated things and always have been. If I have to put in extra effort, I'd rather build banjos or guitars, which I find more satisfying to play and perhaps easier to sell for reasonable money. Or I'd rather work on the cosmetic niceties that are appealing to me more and more thanks to a few members of UU. I don't want to over-intellectualize lutherie anymore. Still, its fun to watch someone else hunt the unicorn.

Timbuck
10-20-2013, 07:57 AM
+1 john, totally agree. I just use a bolt on neck, and even that can get fiddly.Switching now to just plain glueing the neck/body to see how they hold up.

I recently destroyed a soprano that went wrong during the build :uhoh: ...I held it by the neck and smashed it against the end of the bench several times until it was wood pulp..the only thing that didn't break was the glued dovetail joint :D

In the name of "uke science" it would be nice if somebody do's the same to a uke with a bolt on neck and we could compare notes.;)..I believe that the barrel nut would tear out of the heel first :)

tobinsuke
10-20-2013, 09:13 AM
I recently destroyed a soprano that went wrong during the build :uhoh: ...I held it by the neck and smashed it against the end of the bench several times until it was wood pulp..the only thing that didn't break was the glued dovetail joint

In the name of "uke science" it would be nice if somebody do's the same to a uke with a bolt on neck and we could compare notes.;)..I believe that the barrel nut would tear out of the heel first

Wow, so it's true that NDT (non destructive testing) has its limits. :)
I wish I had a bolted-neck-headed-for-the-fire victim - I mean subject - to contribute to science for this one :)

jcalkin
10-20-2013, 11:56 AM
I don't find or approach uke building as being easier then guitar building

Beau, you're one of the guys here who inspire me, and I certainly don't doubt what you say. Plus, I've only built a few ukes and they were all sopranos. But I've built at least few of all the common instruments and several dozen of many (not to mention about 4000 guitar bodies for H&D), and ukes are by far the easiest of any, even if decorated the same way. I think it has to do with the size. They're just easy and uncomplicated.

ernie kleinman
10-20-2013, 02:22 PM
John on your assymetrical uke , are you using vln ebony pegs?? Definitely like the look and s.hole.

hammer40
10-20-2013, 04:42 PM
Beau, you're one of the guys here who inspire me, and I certainly don't doubt what you say. Plus, I've only built a few ukes and they were all sopranos. But I've built at least few of all the common instruments and several dozen of many (not to mention about 4000 guitar bodies for H&D), and ukes are by far the easiest of any, even if decorated the same way. I think it has to do with the size. They're just easy and uncomplicated.

I hope your prices reflect how "easy and uncomplicated" it is for you to build ukulele's.

Kekani
10-20-2013, 05:26 PM
Beau, you're one of the guys here who inspire me, and I certainly don't doubt what you say. Plus, I've only built a few ukes and they were all sopranos. But I've built at least few of all the common instruments and several dozen of many (not to mention about 4000 guitar bodies for H&D), and ukes are by far the easiest of any, even if decorated the same way. I think it has to do with the size. They're just easy and uncomplicated.

I gotta agree with Beau on this one. My Custom P&J Neck through Bass, with active electronics, and all the other fun stuff that don't go on my `ukulele (radius fretboard, double CF rod, truss rod, pickup routes, preamp routes, wiring holes, grounding, etc), including the fretboard inlay, was WAY easier to pull off than `ukulele. Even though I've done only 2 basses (okay, doing my second one right now), there are way more things that I pay attention to in the thousandths of an inch on my `ukulele.

Acoustic Guitars, yeah, that's another story. But by no means is an `ukulele easy and uncomplicated. Okay, maybe in production, but not on this board.

Back to the thread, I'm finally incorporating a bolt-on M&T, which I've always wanted to do. Not because it needs it, but just because it fits within my current build process (to be shared at this year's UGH).

boatpaddle
10-21-2013, 04:47 AM
They are very rigid and very nicely executed. I can't help thinking though that they are, for a Uke or Nylon strung Guitar, WAY overkill.

One if the reasons I make these joints is for design flexibility. I approach building in a design oriented way, rather than seeking to replicate traditional designs and techniques, and I can make any shape upper bout profile and still easily fit the neck. As far as overbuilding is concerned, my feeling is, the greater the strength/weight ratio of an instrument, the better it will translate the overtones of the strings into sound. A light weight instrument with just enough structure will have a tinny sound as compared to one with the same weight but more rigid structure and richer sound. It has more to do with overall structure than just enough to resist string tension. Here's another one, it's less overbuilt than any neck joint I've ever seen, but it has tremendous stuctural integrety: http://www.boatpaddleukuleles.com/links/UU/joint7a.jpg

boatpaddle
10-21-2013, 05:22 AM
What size are they ? All tenors.

boatpaddle
10-21-2013, 05:25 AM
John on your assymetrical uke , are you using vln ebony pegs?? Definitely like the look and s.hole.

They're Pegheds.

boatpaddle
10-21-2013, 10:06 AM
Which brings up a very interesting question: so what? Does over-building the rims and neck support necessarily effect the performance of a lightly made top? Some respectable guitar makers think not, and that it might actually enhance performance. But to me much of the appeal of ukes is that they are uncomplicated things and always have been. If I have to put in extra effort, I'd rather build banjos or guitars, which I find more satisfying to play and perhaps easier to sell for reasonable money. Or I'd rather work on the cosmetic niceties that are appealing to me more and more thanks to a few members of UU. I don't want to over-intellectualize lutherie anymore. Still, its fun to watch someone else hunt the unicorn.



Which brings up a very interesting question: so what? Does over-building the rims and neck support necessarily effect the performance of a lightly made top? Some respectable guitar makers think not, and that it might actually enhance performance. But to me much of the appeal of ukes is that they are uncomplicated things and always have been. If I have to put in extra effort, I'd rather build banjos or guitars, which I find more satisfying to play and perhaps easier to sell for reasonable money. Or I'd rather work on the cosmetic niceties that are appealing to me more and more thanks to a few members of UU. I don't want to over-intellectualize lutherie anymore. Still, its fun to watch someone else hunt the unicorn.

I think you're referring to the picture of a block that encompasses the sides. This is a common technique used in instruments like F5 mandolins to back up a miter joint. I wouldn't call the joints overbuilt, I try to make them as light as possible. You can't isolate one component like a "light top" from the rest of an instrument. The neck joints I use aren't meant to help the sound board work better, they're meant to increase sustain. The entire instrument is affected by any change to one or more of its parts, and the foundation on which the strings and sound board work is important.

Hunting the unicorn seems to suggest that ukuleles are perfect instruments. C.F. Martin set up shop in the U.S. in the first half of the 19th century as a master luthier trained in Germany. When he got here, he was exposed to many new techniques including Spanish fan bracing and quickly abandoned his ladder bracing for a better design. Things like larger bodies, 14 fret joints and X bracing followed. His fellow luthiers back in Germany may have thought he was hunting a unicorn too.

Ukuleles are not perfect instruments. The majority I see are under braced (if at all) with dense tops and dead notes that make a loud thump when awakened. I have a lot of respect for folk instruments, and they have their place, but it's ultimately about the music, and when I'm finger picking, the last thing I want to hear is loud thumping. I like an instrument with low easy to play action, good sustain and one that feels alive. Now where's that unicorn?

jcalkin
10-21-2013, 01:17 PM
I think you're referring to the picture of a block that encompasses the sides. This is a common technique used in instruments like F5 mandolins to back up a miter joint. I wouldn't call the joints overbuilt, I try to make them as light as possible. You can't isolate one component like a "light top" from the rest of an instrument. The neck joints I use aren't meant to help the sound board work better, they're meant to increase sustain. The entire instrument is affected by any change to one or more of its parts, and the foundation on which the strings and sound board work is important.

Hunting the unicorn seems to suggest that ukuleles are perfect instruments. C.F. Martin set up shop in the U.S. in the first half of the 19th century as a master luthier trained in Germany. When he got here, he was exposed to many new techniques including Spanish fan bracing and quickly abandoned his ladder bracing for a better design. Things like larger bodies, 14 fret joints and X bracing followed. His fellow luthiers back in Germany may have thought he was hunting a unicorn too.

Ukuleles are not perfect instruments. The majority I see are under braced (if at all) with dense tops and dead notes that make a loud thump when awakened. I have a lot of respect for folk instruments, and they have their place, but it's ultimately about the music, and when I'm finger picking, the last thing I want to hear is loud thumping. I like an instrument with low easy to play action, good sustain and one that feels alive. Now where's that unicorn?

I guess it wasn't apparent, but I'm on your side, Dude. Evolution is the key to existence, whether animal or musical. But ideas evolve way faster than the human acceptance of them. Everything you say is probably right. Chasing the unicorn refers to fitting your ideas in with the buying public. They have no complaint with the way ukes are, they only wish they could have their dream versions of the way they are. If you complicate construction you'll have to charge more for your work, work that can't be seen from the outside of the instrument. If you are successful at improving the musical qualities of the of the uke you may find a market. I hope you do. It'll be fun to watch it happen. In the meantime, many of us will truck along making customers happy with what we all ready know how to do. I'm not sure how much excitement C.F. Martin caused when he perfected the X brace, but its been about 150 years since then with no real challengers. Things change slowly in the acoustic instrument world. Make yourself happy, that's all any of us can shoot for.

jcalkin
10-21-2013, 01:25 PM
I gotta agree with Beau on this one. My Custom P&J Neck through Bass, with active electronics, and all the other fun stuff that don't go on my `ukulele (radius fretboard, double CF rod, truss rod, pickup routes, preamp routes, wiring holes, grounding, etc), including the fretboard inlay, was WAY easier to pull off than `ukulele. Even though I've done only 2 basses (okay, doing my second one right now), there are way more things that I pay attention to in the thousandths of an inch on my `ukulele.

Acoustic Guitars, yeah, that's another story. But by no means is an `ukulele easy and uncomplicated. Okay, maybe in production, but not on this board.

Back to the thread, I'm finally incorporating a bolt-on M&T, which I've always wanted to do. Not because it needs it, but just because it fits within my current build process (to be shared at this year's UGH).


I built 80 electric guitars and basses before I quite building them. They got to be pretty easy, I admit. Maybe its just that my jigs came out just right, but ukes are easy and uncomplicated. Sorry. After you've made a few hundred acoustic instruments I hope you feel the same way.

boatpaddle
10-21-2013, 02:23 PM
I have a loyal following of customers, several who have ordered up to three ukuleles with average prices being in the $1300 range. Backlog usually runs 3-4 months and I just shipped my first $2000+ ukulele. Life is good

jcalkin
10-21-2013, 03:37 PM
I have a loyal following of customers, several who have ordered up to three ukuleles with average prices being in the $1300 range. Backlog usually runs 3-4 months and I just shipped my first $2000+ ukulele. Life is good

I salute you, boatpaddle.

Kekani
10-21-2013, 09:22 PM
I built 80 electric guitars and basses before I quite building them. They got to be pretty easy, I admit. Maybe its just that my jigs came out just right, but ukes are easy and uncomplicated. Sorry. After you've made a few hundred acoustic instruments I hope you feel the same way.

Don't be sorry. Someone with your extensive experience has earned every right to call building an instrument (probably any instrument) "easy".

My favorite build? My last one. Alas, I'm not about volume, never have been, don't want to be. Admittedly, I guess I complicate my builds more than the average builder. Though they may look the same, each one is different, and I'm sure my clients like it that way.

Again, I'm not entirely disagreeing with you. In production, yes, the process is certainly simplified. For someone like me, no doubt there are easy processes, but the inlays, while enjoyable and theraputic in nature, just increases things to go wrong. Not to mention the rest of the build, which one may argue also includes the consulting part.

Unlike Boatpaddle, my volume is way less, wait time way longer, but like him, life is good. Just like his neck joints. . . and I join in your salute!

ernie kleinman
10-22-2013, 04:53 AM
I/m going out on a limb here.But frankly all this saluting nonsense is a bunch of BS. Let/s be honest .Making instruments wheteher they are gtrs,ukes, electrics, etc is hard an tedious work, whether you have build 5 or 100.Problems , glitches, contrarian wood , and mistakes have given me many fits of discomfort. Every day is a learning experience. I do agree that as you build you gain more experience in dealing with the inevitable problems.I will now get off my soapbox. Thanks.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
10-22-2013, 05:42 AM
I find that the difference between guitars and ukes to be very small-
Making and fitting a neck, slotting/shaping/binding a fingerboard, binding, inlays, rosette, endgraft, shaping a bridge, glue ups, finishing. etc

Take binding for instance- yes a uke is smaller and requires less binding material but the time saved in binding a uke side that is 20" long rather then a 30" guitar side in only minuets...which is lost in taking more care in the bending of uke bindings due their tighter curves.

It all takes (very close to) the same amount of time....at least for me. I dont think in terms of 2 ukes will take the same time to complete as does 1 guitar. Perhaps (hopefully!) that will change as i get better as building faster.

Body sanding is a little bit quicker on ukes as there is 40-50% less area to sand.

Guitar top bracing does take a little longer due to more braces and their scalloping.

Uke braces= 5 (with 3 x fan/ 2x transverse bars)
Guitar braces= 9-10 (X brace + 2-3 lower tone bars, 4 x finger tone bars thingys, and transverse)

jcalkin
10-22-2013, 03:22 PM
I/m going out on a limb here.But frankly all this saluting nonsense is a bunch of BS. Let/s be honest .Making instruments wheteher they are gtrs,ukes, electrics, etc is hard an tedious work, whether you have build 5 or 100.Problems , glitches, contrarian wood , and mistakes have given me many fits of discomfort. Every day is a learning experience. I do agree that as you build you gain more experience in dealing with the inevitable problems.I will now get off my soapbox. Thanks.

I never meant to stretch out this conversation like this. Still.. .Today was my day to scrape and sand six guitar bodies. I ended up with two binding do-overs, which is pretty unusual. A pain in the ass? Yup. A fit of discomfort? Nope. You just fire up the routers again and do your job.
I spent some of my teens and most of my twenties as an industrial roofer and sandblaster. Lutherie is definitely tedious, but hard work? Not even close. Its difficult to learn and can stay difficult for a long time. Then suddenly everything starts going right for days or weeks at a time. You can almost coast from payday to payday. When some gnarly junk happens you just fix it and keep going. I would never have reached that point working in my own shop, I didn't deal with enough repetition. Lutherie requires all my skills and attention, but its become a pretty easy job. Sometimes its like zen driving, your mind wanders off and suddenly you're where you want to be and you don't remember the trip. Its that easy. After seventeen years in my own shop I don't think I ever had a day like that. For the last sixteen intense years I've been paid pretty well to refine my chops, whether in the milling room or at the binding bench, and lutherie is no big deal.

But I still hate finish work.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
10-23-2013, 03:34 AM
But I still hate finish work.

Ditto-
Spraying a burst is fun, and the spraying in general is a nice brief change from the dusty stuff. All other finish work falls into the hate pile :)

Rick Turner
10-24-2013, 02:31 PM
You know why I like spraying finishes?

Because nobody bugs me when I'm in the booth. I don't have to answer the phone, I don't get interrupted, and I can just work.

I do like shooting bursts...that is the fun part. And I do like laying down a perfect coat of whatever I'm spraying with just the right flowout and no sags. Shooting satin well is a challenge...one tiny spec of dust, and it's a re-do tomorrow. But get it right, and there it is...

Dan Uke
10-25-2013, 10:00 AM
Ditto-
Spraying a burst is fun, and the spraying in general is a nice brief change from the dusty stuff. All other finish work falls into the hate pile :)

Now that you moved to Colorado, are you going to spray yourself or outsource?

ThomD
02-14-2014, 11:20 PM
... If you complicate construction you'll have to charge more for your work, work that can't be seen from the outside of the instrument...

It is amazing how a large, central sound hole, with a paper label behind it makes the interior all but invisible to most owners. The advent of soundports is a game changer that way. Now they can see every detail of the inside, and if you are putting a lot in there, they get to see it. (I worry about putting too much parts volume in there and displacing the air volume).



Over time I see most people with non-trad ideas revert to the mean. Even where there is a lot of improvement possible, the players have to want it, and they want the instrument as much because of it's imperfections as anything else, or they aren't aware of them.

One thing about non-trad ideas is that they have to be sold, if they aren't simply hidden, and then the claims made for them can eventually catch up with the builder. It takes a certain amount of courage to hang it all out there, and it is doubtless safer to be a champion of all things traditional, rather than risk a reputational backlash. It is kinda unfair, because tradition just is, it isn't as thought it can really be justified.